Majority Support?

Steve Eppley seppley at
Mon Nov 18 15:49:51 PST 1996

DEMOREP1 wrote:
>Mr. Eppley wrote:
>>You misunderstood the question.  I'm basically asking: why would 
>>good candidates choose not to compete in the original election
>>if they're able to win the re-election?

>I continue to not understand your question. If such "good"
>candidates do not run in the election, then how can they run for
>re-election ?

Are you implying that if all candidates are disapproved and a new
election is held, new candidates (i.e., candidates who didn't
compete in the original election) wouldn't be allowed to enter the
race?  If so, that's something I didn't realize from your earlier 
writing... but I don't really think it's what you mean to imply now.
(Correct me if you are indeed implying that.)

Maybe we just have a terminology problem.  By "re-election" I'm 
referring to the new election mandated when no candidate has majority 

Example:  In the original election, Hitler, Stalin, and Attila the
Hun are all disapproved: no one wins and a new election for the
office will be held soon.  Washington, who didn't run in the original
election, is now approached and asked to run.  Is Washington eligible
to run now?  If so, and if Washington is willing to run now, why 
didn't he run in the original election against such horrible opponents?

>>>> Example -snip-

>>> All 3 do not have majority approval.

>>Right, that's the problem I'm pointing out, but you didn't answer
>>the question.  The question I asked was: ARE YOU CONCERNED that this
>>can be the outcome even when the compromise candidate is really

>I AM CONCERNED about electing majority approved candidates and not
>electing minority approved candidates (and especially about not
>electing majority disapproved candidates).

Since you didn't answer the question I asked, I'll read between the
lines and assume that it does not concern you if candidates who are
actually okay to a majority are disapproved because some didn't vote
sincerely.  (Those voters would rather have a vacuum of power and
anarchy than accept a compromise.)

>>Can you construct a realistic example where the winner by plain
>>Condorcet could become majority-disapproved if some | dividing lines
>>are inserted into the rankings, without making all the candidates
>>become majority-disapproved?
>>   35: Washington | Hitler Stalin
>>   10: Washington Hitler Stalin
>>   20: Hitler
>>   15: Stalin Hitler Washington
>>   20: Stalin | Hitler Washington
>>So the question is, is this scenario realistic enough to be of 
>>concern?  If so, it meets the spec.  If not, can you construct 
>>a realistic example so we have something to really be worried 

>Only W is majority approved. Thank you for the example. It will be
>used by the opponents of plain Condorcet 

I went to some trouble to develop that example, and your reply was 
unfortunately too brief to address the issues I raised: 
Is the example realistic or not?  
Is it worth complicating the sw reform proposal, making it more
controversial, and risking defeat of the reform?  

Remember, the status quo also allows an unapproved candidate to win,
so the simple sw reform doesn't make things worse, it makes things
much better.

By the way, the | "vertical bar" character I used to mark the
approval/disapproval dividing line is the shifted character on the 
\ "backslash" key, if your keyboard is reasonably ibm-compatible.  
If someone doesn't see it as a vertical bar, please let me know.
Maybe Demorep's choice of the / "slash" is better.

>along with the supposedly unrealistic standard circular tie example
>(as if there was W>S>H>W in head to head pairings) in which all the
>candidates are defeated by a majority.

Yes, they might indeed use such bogus scare tactics.  The rebuttal
we would make is to point out that anytime there is such a circular
majority against all the candidates, then the "vote for only one"
system would also elect a candidate who would upset a majority of
voters.  But not vice versa: "vote for only one" can elect a candidate 
who would lose some pairing when Condorcet won't; it's just the gag
on voters expression--not letting them express their true preferences
--which hides this common occurrence.

Similarly, if Condorcet without Disapproval would elect a disapproved
candidate, so would the existing "vote for only one" system.  But not
vice versa: the existing system will do it more often.  Didn't you 
make this point yourself recently when you commented that Clinton 
would not be able to win if voters could express disapproval?

Of course, they'll have the money to spread disinfo on tv, and we'll
have to rebut in the few paragraphs alloted in the state ballot

>>There's a lesser of evils dilemma in approval voting which can
>>distort approvals: should I approve a compromise candidate and risk
>>defeating my true favorite, or should I disapprove the compromise
>>candidate and risk electing the greater evil?  

>Approve both your compromise candidate and your true favorite
>candidate and rank your true favorite candidate ahead of the
>compromise candidate. 
>If either or both gets majority approval, then either or both go
>head to head against each other and other majority approved
>candidates, if any.

I didn't specify that I sincerely approve of the compromise
candidate, yet you suggest I vote to approve it.  For the sake of the
argument I'll go along with your assumption that I sincerely approve
the compromise.  (The opposite assumption would have a mirror image 

There's a tactical problem with that recommendation: there are
scenarios where the outcome would be more favorable to me if I vote
to disapprove the compromise, even if I sincerely approve it.  This
may be what it takes to elect my true favorite.

Because of the tactical considerations, the results will be distorted.  

A distortion which I think should be of especial concern is that a
candidate who would both (1) beat all others pairwise and (2) be
majority-approved if voters all voted sincerely, might nevertheless
be majority-disapproved due to tactical voting.  Or due to people who
prefer anarchy over compromise.  Or to people whose party can better 
afford to finance race after race until the other parties go bankrupt.  
Or to people who just plain want anarchy and vote to disapprove of 

---Steve     (Steve Eppley    seppley at

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